Society / Health & Science
Saturday, 12 Nov 2016 17:39 EAT
Kenya has the potential of saving millions of shillings and averting maternal and child deaths, by investing in proper nutrition in the first 1,000 days of a baby’s life. Proper nutrition in the first 1,000 days has been recognized globally to have a profound impact on the child’s ability to grow, learn and thrive and has a lasting impact on long term health. This is a rapidly evolving area where new scientific advances are occurring at a rapid pace.
According to Kenya Demographic Healthy Survey 2014, about one in every 26 children born in Kenya dies before their first birthday, while one in every 19 does not live to celebrate their 5th birthday. Even though this marks an improvement when compared to the figures five years ago, more still needs to be done to reduce, if not eliminate childhood mortality.
“It is important to get adequate nutrition, for mothers and children. It is very important that they get the best nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life because that’s where most of the mortality happens,” said Prof Clifford Wayne, director, Harvard Human Nutrition Program. Prof Wayne believes that proper nutrition should start even before a woman is pregnant, through her pregnancy and into the first three years of a baby’s life.
In order to help keep healthcare professionals up-to-date on the evolving science, Nestlé Nutrition Institute Africa (NNIA) has provided funding to develop a dedicated global program entitled “Post Graduate Program in Pediatric Nutrition (PGPN)”. The program has been developed by MedInscribe and BUSM, a leader in medical education and research, with MedInscribe providing logistical support. It offers a unique opportunity to strengthen healthcare professionals’ knowledge and practice in pediatric nutrition through a series of online learning modules, delivered in various formats including text, video and audio. The final stage of education is presented in a series of live meetings delivered in various locations worldwide.
Since the launch of the program in March, close to 4,500 healthcare professionals from 63 countries have joined the program. The majority of applications have been submitted from Africa, Asia and the Middle East where typically the burden of nutritional challenges in children is higher and access to education about nutrition is limited. Fourty Kenyans were selected and trained on the course. “We have done well in Kenya, we have reduced child and infant deaths by half, but now we also need to look at what else after saving the lives. We have to focus on the health of those who have survived,” said Prof Fredrick Were, professor of pediatrics and Dean School of Medicine, University of Nairobi.
“Today, science shows us that getting the right nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life can have a profound impact on life-long health. Our long standing commitment to support nutrition education has been further strengthened with the development of this program and is a step forward in realizing our vision of Together Nurturing a Healthier Generation,” commented Heiko Schipper, Chief Executive Officer, Nestlé.
The writer is a contributing reporter for the Kenya Free Press